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To Life!: A Celebration of Jewish Being and Thinking Hardcover – May 1, 1993

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (T); 1st edition (May 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316507350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316507356
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Kushner, a rabbi and author of the bestseller When Bad Things Happen to Good People , here presents a wise and lucid guide to what it means to be Jewish. Distilling his extensive study and reflection, he defines the goal of Judaism as "bringing God into the world" by sanctifying ordinary events and by helping people to become fully human through their relatedness to others. As he sees it, God's covenant with the Jews means that God and humans have obligations to one another. Kushner illuminates this reciprocal relationship, emphasizing that people exercise free choice in what direction they take toward goodness and articulating Judaism's expectation that social justice will ultimately prevail. His exuberant approach and organic bonds to a living faith pervade this book, which includes chapters on rituals, holidays, prayer, anti-Semitism, Jews' attachment to Israel and Jewish-Christian relations.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Kushner ( When Bad Things Happen to Good People , Avon, 1983) has here written a lucid analysis of Jewish life, thought, and customs. Enlightening to those who want to learn more about Judaism, this work serves as an excellent introduction to the roots of Christianity and Jewish belief. Kushner discusses the essence of Judaism in a simple and clear language, touching upon the meaning of Jewish customs and ceremonies and the purpose of prayer. He talks about such topics as the love of Israel by Jews, how Jews and Christians need to understand one another, and anti-Semitism in terms of why people hate. The essence of the book is its tone of optimism, its sense of living and making the ordinary sacred; this tone is enhanced by an ease of writing and the use of examples and memories from the author's life. Recommended to all libraries.
- Maurice Tuchman, Hebrew Coll. Lib., Brookline, Mass.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Harold S. Kushner is Rabbi Laureate of Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, where he lives. His books include the huge bestseller When Bad Things Happen To Good People and When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough.

Customer Reviews

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I read this book back in 1993 when it was first published.
Eric B
I was raised in a Jewish home that was much more traditional in the secular way than religious.
Karyn Wynne
I highly recommend this book to all non-jews and jews alike.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
In this book, Rabbi Harold Kushner (perhaps best known as the author of 'When Bad Things Happen to Good People') explores the traditions and practices of Judaism with wit and wisdom. 'To Life!' is his celebration of his heritage, and the heritage of his entire community.
'"To Life!" conveys a sense of exuberance, a readiness to enjoy the pleasures of this world. It removes from wine, and from other pleasures, the taint of sin and self-indulgence, and invited us to look at all that God has created and find it good.' Judaism has a long history, longer than most continuing religious traditions in the world today. It is a testament to the foresight in Judaic teaching and wisdom that, despite its ancient origin, much of that wisdom is still relevant today. This may also have to do with the slow nature of change in the basic human nature, as well as the fact that timeless truths and problems are, well, timeless!
This book is a very personal book for Kushner. He states in the first chapter his Rule One about how to answer the question What does Judaism say about...? -- ''The only correct answer will always begin: "Some Jews believe as follows, and other Jews believe something different." The reason fo this is not just that we are a highly individualistic, independent-minded people. The main reason is that we have never found it necessary to spell out exactly what we are supposed to believe.'
A key difference between Judaism and many religions, including Christianity, is that it is an ethnically-based religion, not only in practice but in approach. The Jews were a people before they had a religion. With most every other religion, the converse is true.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Eric B on March 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm a Jew who sings with my Christian friends in their church choir every Sunday (to support them in their worship). Many of them sing in the synagogue choir down the street. Although I'm a devout Jew, I've begun to see the world a bit through Christian eyes. Let me say, flat out, that I found no criticisms of Christianity in this book. In fact, just the opposite: Rabbi Kushner strikes me as thoughtful and respectful of Christianity. For instance, he never makes the claim that Christianiity is a religion of faith without works. He says clearly that the differences between faith and works in Judaism and Christianity are differences in emphasis. Judaism is more focused on this-worldly matters than other major religions. That's a fact, not a criticism. Furthermore, he does not say that Christianity is "part pagan." In the chapter in which he discusses Christianity, he refers to early Christians who adopted aspects of paganism into early Christianity. Few scholars would dispute this. His brief discussion of baptism was in the context of explaining that one is born Jewish in a way that one cannot be born a Christian. Again, this is a fact, not a criticism or a put-down of Christianity.

I read this book back in 1993 when it was first published. Today my wife and I light candles, bless our son and daughter, and chant the blessings over wine and bread every Friday night.........largely because of this book. Thank you Rabbi Kushner.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By ShamayimBlue on September 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
To Life! is a heartfelt book that serves as an introduction to anyone who wants to get reacquainted with Judaism and reconnect with its roots and core ideas; it's meant as a book for anyone, even non-Jews who want to get an idea of what Judaism is about. Keep in mind that Kushner is a rabbi from Judaism's Conservative movement, so the perspective you're getting is largely from his take on Jewish observance and belief, though he does make efforts to show you the Reform and Orthodox perspectives as well. And more importantly, he conveys to you certain ideas, cultural values, and beliefs that tie all Jews together, regardless of their level of observance.

He covers the holidays, the Jewish approach to life's milestones (including a very poignant section on loss), the Torah and some of the rationale behind its regulations, and also the Jewish approach to some great moral and theological questions. The book is not meant to give you all the answers, but to inspire you to think and do more reading and more searching. Kushner writes with a full heart and an open mind; this is a man who has lived through difficult and painful experiences, and yet still takes joy in life, as Judaism encourages one to do - to make holy and blessed the ordinary moments of life.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jay3fer on February 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
("l'chaim" -- To Life! -- is the traditional Jewish toast, offered over a raised glass of something potent, a prayer that life will bring us good things and success)
This is a great book for Jews or non-Jews... or anyone who loves life! Like Kushner's other work, this book makes you shake your head in wonder, thinking, "it all makes sense now..."
Even if you've been Jewish your entire life, if you're still wondering where the joy is supposed to be in living Jewishly, you need to listen to what Kushner has to say.
And if you're related to a Jew, married to a Jew, or thinking about becoming one yourself, this book will absolutely help you understand what it's all about.
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